It’s one of the top concerns I hear from clients at Be Well: How do I get back on track when I’ve gotten off course with my healthy habits?
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed with all the healthy changes you know you need to make. But you don’t need to make these changes all at once! When deciding which healthy habits to focus on, start by choosing just one of Be Well’s Six Pillars of Health:
- Stress Reduction
These categories help you to identify your “big rocks,” which are the habits and choices that have the most dramatic positive ripple effect on the rest of your day. They are the ones to prioritize. When you focus on your “big rocks,” things have a way of flowing and falling into place in all areas of life when those main categories are on track.
For example, sleep is a top priority for me. I know that if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, it will set me up for a day of excess caffeine, feeling dehydrated, craving sugar, and feeling too tired to work out. You can see the negative ripple effect all of that could have come 10 p.m. But if I prioritize sleep, it becomes much easier to make positive choices from the moment I wake up!
When choosing your “big rock,” keep it simple and practical. Soon, these habits will become second nature, just like brushing your teeth; You won’t even think, you’ll just do!
Pillar 1: Sleep
If a client comes to me with several issues, I always make sure to ask about sleep. More often than not, they report they’re not getting enough. Correct this first. You set yourself up for a successful day when you can bag 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night! Some ways you can accomplish this goal:
Form habits around sleep hygiene techniques, like eliminating caffeine after a certain hour, turning off your phone and computer two hours before bedtime, or creating a bedtime routine you stick to every night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s vital to address which of those hygiene factors may be getting in your way. It may be a much simpler fix than you think.
Make a plan. It’s inevitable: We say we want to be in bed by 10:00 p.m., but then something comes up and suddenly the clock says midnight. The best laid plans often go awry – but they don’t have to. It’s so important to know what your challenges are so you can meet them as they come. Have a game plan for when something threatens to sabotage your habit. I love the “If/Then” method of coming up with a plan in advance: “If I must do work in the evening, then I’ll set my phone alarm to remind me to cut off computer time by 9:00 p.m.” This can ease anxiety when starting a new routine with a busy schedule, kids, or other factors that can make good habits feel tricky.
Pillar 2: Nutrition
Knowing what to eat can be confusing at times, given the vast amount of information out there. Yet the last thing we should be stressing about is our food. So what should you focus on first?
Choose one specific change at a time. As Dr. Lipman says, “If I can inspire you to make only one change in your life, it’s to make a drastic reduction in the amount of sugar you eat.” Starting there always helps my clients make HUGE shifts in how they feel right away! Reducing inflammation, cravings, fatigue, bloat, anxiety, irritability, brain fog, you name it! Sugar is addicting and shows up everywhere. Once you reduce your sugar, it becomes easier to make other changes to your diet.
Try a Cleanse. Be Well has 7-day, 14-day, and 28-day cleanses to allow you to choose one that works best with your own needs and routines. A cleanse can naturally course correct your diet by providing a very specific, practical, and structured game plan to get back on track.
Write it down. Keeping a food journal of everything you eat provides instant accountability for your healthy habits. It also lets you track how certain foods make you feel, which allows a better understanding of which nutrition habits you need (and which you don’t).
Pillar 3: Stress Reduction
Stress can wreak havoc on our system in so many ways. When the body is in “Fight or Flight” mode, our hormones are thrown, our digestion shuts down, and all attention is diverted to our extremities to get us out of that situation. Though this comes in handy in truly dangerous situations, chronic stress becomes a problem. That’s why it’s vital to have at least one supportive practice to ensure you can move through stressors with greater ease.
Practice, practice, practice. Choose one stress-reduction technique that works for you, and commit to doing it at least 10 minutes per day. This could be yoga, meditation, deep breathing work, stretching, or even taking a nightly bath. It’s called “practice” because this regular commitment adds up daily like compound interest. You will notice a huge difference over time, but only if it’s reinforced every day.
Pillar 4: Exercise
Choose a workout you love. If the word “gym” makes you want to hide in bed and never get up, then don’t go to the gym. It sounds like such simple advice, but many forget that movement comes in a variety of forms. Do you love the outdoors? Take a hike! Feel like bike commuting to work? Commit to doing that regularly. Love taking that Pilates class with your friends? Then do it! You’re more likely to keep up your exercise habit if you love your workout.
Lock it in. It’s important to pick a time of day, environment, and method that is most conducive to your needs, goals, and personality. Some people like checking off their workout first thing in the morning; others prefer to blow off steam after work; some love gyms, while others prefer workout videos at home. Set yourself up for success by defining when, where, and how your workout will happen – and then show up. Every day. No excuses!
Pillar 5: Community
If something is not a habit, we perpetually crave having it in our lives without making it a reality. Just like telling ourselves “I’ll exercise this week!” and then not following through, it’s important we set habits to connect with others. “Community” can mean different things to different people. It could be a family gathered around the dinner table on Friday nights, a spiritual group you attend Sunday mornings, or “communing” with your individual self by journaling each night. Community brings about feelings of empathy, love, and connection that bring us peace of mind.
Choose something you want to do, not what you have to do. An obligation to others can be enriching, but it can also be a burden. Whether it’s spending quality time with loved ones, scheduling a weekly Skype session with your best friend, or taking a nature walk, it’s important to choose a regular community-building practice that revitalizes your soul.
Pillar 6: Supplements
Making sense of the many supplements out there can feel confusing. At Be Well, we have Health Coaches on staff who are here to answer any and all questions about creating a supplement habit – so use our support lines!
Visit your doctor yearly for blood work. Such a simple habit can be incredibly helpful in identifying vitamin deficiencies and receiving a doctor’s recommendation for supplementation.
Simplify the routine. For an overall “starter” supplement, I recommend our Be Well Daily Dose, which contains our Top 4 recommended supplements: Probiotic, Multi, D3, and Omega-3s. They come in packets that can be carried anywhere and don’t require refrigeration – just throw in your bag and take 1 packet with 2 meals a day. If mealtime doesn’t remind you to take your supplements, set other reminders to reinforce the habit: a cell phone alert, a pill box in your laptop bag, or a box by your coffee machine are great ways to remember to stick to your habit.
When you choose just one habit to focus on, you’ll quickly see that this “big rock” has a huge ripple effect on your life for the better. You can enjoy the experience of creating and maintaining your healthy habits – no matter what challenges you face.